Sunday, December 23, 2018

Perhaps it is time for a different approach

I read an article recently that has me thinking about the ways we label ourselves, and in so doing divide ourselves.  Perhaps it is time for a different approach.

We’ve all seen the strings of letters.  LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQQIA, LGBTQQIP2SAA, and so on.  The letters stand for a variety of terms that represent sexualities and genders.

  • L: Lesbian
  • G: Gay
  • B: Bisexual
  • T: Transgender, transsexual, and two-spirit
  • Q: Queer and questioning

There are additional terms that have come into use more recently:

  • QQ: Questioning and queer
  • I: Intersex
  • P: Pansexual
  • 2S: Two-spirit
  • A: Asexual
  • A: Ally (a person who is not LGBTQ but supports LGBTQ persons)

The list above is actually quite incomplete.  Kate Bornstein lists 200 sexualities and genders in “My New Gender Workbook”, and has found over 750 in use online.

The proliferation of identities is very useful for folks left out of the mainstream handful of identities in the acronyms.  However, trying to expand the acronym becomes unwieldy, and unfortunately signals the further partitioning of our little community into smaller and smaller factions. 

We are a small population of gender variant folks adrift on a life raft in a sea of heteronormative cisgender folks. Must we start sawing our raft into ever smaller pieces?

I’m not even sure which piece I should cling to, as an older woman, attracted to femme presentation, who got this way by being a transgender person.  Women  tell me I am not a “real woman”. Lesbians tell me I am not a lesbian. Transgender persons tell me I am not trans enough, or am a transsexual and not transgender. 

As we sift our communities members through ever smaller labeling screens some of us will fall through the gaps. 

I know who I am.  I am me, I am queer, and I am here. I support all of my Queer family, in the broadest sense, gay, lesbian, bi, trans, fluid, asexual, agender, two spirit, demi, aromantic, intersex, mux, or the hundreds of other variations of folks that don’t conform to cultural gender and sexual normative models. 

We are Q. Jonathan Rauch, It’s Time to Drop the ‘LGBT’ From ‘LGBTQ’, Jan/Feb 2019, The Atlantic

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Divide and Conquer works, unfortunately

I am an older woman, attracted to femme presentation, who got this way by being a transgender person.  I have had some interesting things said to me recently.   Women  tell me I am not a “real woman”. Lesbians tell me I am not a lesbian. Transgender persons tell me I am not trans enough, or am a transsexual and not transgender. 

What is going on?  While there has always been some friction between the factions making up the “Q” community (LGBTQQIA2SM+, some 600 recognized identities) recently we have moved beyond friction to see a significant increase in folks who are outright exclusionary.  Perhaps there is a reason this is happening now, when at first glance, we should be standing united against forces hostile to all of us.

In October 2017  the Values Voter Summit, the annual political gathering sponsored by Family Values Council, a strongly anti-Q organization, featured a breakout session on “transgender ideology in public schools.” One panelist encouraged a “divide and conquer” strategy to defeat “totalitarian” school policies on transgender inclusion.

Meg Kilgannon, a panelist and director of Concerned Parents and Educators of Fairfax County, said:

“For all of its recent success, the LGBT alliance is actually fragile, and the trans activists need the gay rights movement to help legitimize them. Gender identity on its own is just a bridge too far. If you separate the T from the alphabet soup, we’ll have more success.”

She laid out a five point plan of attack to the conference:

  1. Engage: “Focus on gender identity to divide and conquer.”
  2. Educate: No personal attacks!  “If you attack trans people, you become the proof they rely on for demanding protection,” she said. “So don’t play into their victim narrative because in this culture war, they are the bullies, not the victims.”
  3. Explain: Use secular arguments to reach a more diverse audience rather than less effective religious arguments.
  4. Empowerment: Kilgannon said that the Hands Across the Aisle Coalition—which describes itself as a group of conservative and progressive women that rise above their differences “to oppose the transgender agenda”—includes feminists who argue that gender identity is the “ultimate misogyny” and “erasure of women.”  She said lesbians in the group are concerned that “transing masculine girls is a form of lesbian eugenics.”
  5. Elect: She urged activists to run for school board or to encourage other people from outside the “education-industrial complex” to run. She complained that school boards are full of ideological liberals.
The session speakers phrased their opposition to nondiscrimination policies in what sounded like progressive rhetoric, using phrases familiar to feminist moment speakers pushing for transgender exclusion.  Transgender rights were depicted as anti-feminist, or hostile to minorities.  They were framed as being disrespectful to LGB persons, pretenders and predators harmful to ‘the cause’.

This all sounds horribly familiar, and is unfortunately effective.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Easy Creme Brûlée French Toast - Overnight single pan

Creme Brûlée French Toast - Overnight single pan

This recipe is made the night before it will be served, with a single pan to bake in the morning before service.  This dish serves 4-8 people.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 loaf of Challah bread
5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier
1/4 teaspoon salt

  • In a small heavy saucepan melt butter with brown sugar and corn or maple syrup over moderate heat, stirring, until smooth and pour into a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. 
  • Cut 6 to 8 slices, 1-2 inches thick from center portion of bread, reserving ends for another use (bread pudding!) and trim crusts. Arrange bread slices in one layer in baking dish, squeezing them slightly to fit. 
  • In a bowl whisk together eggs, half and half, vanilla, Grand Marnier and salt until combined well and pour evenly over bread. Chill bread mixture, covered, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and bring bread mixture to room temperature. Bake uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed and edges are pale golden, 35 to 40 minutes.

Trim bottom from Challah bread

Try soaking the bread in batter before placing on caramel layer, especially if doing thicker slices (2”)
        The Grand Mariner can be replaced with something else, from another teaspoon of vanilla to a favorite Torani syrup.

Shifts in Gender Orientation

I was recently interviewed for an article on unexpected shifts or discoveries in gender orientation for folks coming out after age 30.  I had a few thoughts on the topic that I expressed in the interview, and I thought I would get them in writing for our members.

I believe my shift in orientation, fundamentally becoming open to a larger range of partners, was due more to my recognizing and breaking down social taboos on orientation than any innate shift from hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or transition-related surgeries.

Our gender orientation, sexual and romantic, is built in layers.  There is a biological primitive, a bit of our brains wired to recognize other people as possible mates or competitors.  This sets the core of our sexual orientation.  We see others and this bit of our brain identifies those who might be possible mates or sexual partners, based on what can be perceived.  It tends to be a pretty broad sort of classification filter, and there are correlations such that it appears to be set in fetal development during the third trimester by the testosterone level the developing brain is exposed to.

In my case, the filter seems to favor femme appearance as a possible mate.

Our culture insists on certain behaviors as being acceptable.   Since this body was assigned male at birth, this culture had insisted that while growing up and presenting as male, that I only select persons with a strongly femme appearance as a potential mate.  That more or less matches my brain’s setting, so that was OK.  I accepted the cultural conditioning and assumed that was just how I was.

Ah, but then I came to accept my true nature, and violated cultural taboo by coming out and transitioning.  It turns out that breaking one taboo and surviving makes it easier to break other taboos.

Post-transition I, as a woman attracted to women, identified my orientation as a lesbian.  (Cis-lesbian readers, I understand how you may feel about this.  Just read on, please.  This is just my orientation, not culture!)

I was in a transgender person support group meeting, and sitting next to me was a man, with a lovely red-orange beard and reddish leg hair.  They were very kind and open, and I liked them.  In fact, I found myself fantasizing about them.  Now, where was THIS coming from?

After considerable introspection and discussion with some very good sexuality specialists, I realized that the people I am attracted to have not actually identified their genitalia to me, and that the women I did attractive are actually just a subset of persons with some strongly feminine aspects that I admire.  That is I am attracted to persons with some strongly femme attribute to their presentation, and not to some particular set of genitalia.

I rather flippantly describe my orientation now as lesbian with a 30% chance of queer.

This change was driven by my being more open to questioning cultural norms, and I beleive it was not affected by my HRT or surgery, beyond those resulting from my initially challenging and violating cultural norms.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

We each define our own identity

We, each of us, are individuals, with our own core identity, our own feelings, our own experience.  We each have our own unique experience of life, and over time, have come to know ourselves.

Some of us may seek aid in clarifying the meaning and impact of various elements of our lives, whether through therapy, guided meditation, support group discussions, or more spiritual means.  These are all aids in understanding ourselves.  These externalalities do not define us.  They do not hold our lives and experience, and cannot tell us who we are.

Each of us, within ourselves, holds the knowledge of who we are, what we need, how we are best recognized and acknowledged by others.  The process of self-discovery to reveal and clarify this knowledge to ourselves is one that many of us undertake.

We have to take care in entering this process to be aware that others may seek to impose their will on us, attempting to assign to us who we are, what we need, and how we should be recognized. This can be toxic, an attempt to poison our very identity, in a misguided effort to make others more comfortable by putting us in a box, what others wish was our place.

When we are on our journey of self-discovery, allies who can help us, and shield us from others who would impose their own ideals or desires on us, are vital.  A good support group or friends may provide this.  We still have to exercise care lest someone that we see as an ally may, perhaps unwittingly, try to designate who we are, place us in some arbitrary box.

Some people are only comfortable with others once they have labeled them, tucked them into their place, and determined what others should be.  Be careful around these people.  When we are most fragile, such folks, even if identifying as friends or allies, can be very damaging.

We are, each of us individually, incredibly complex in our identity and needs.  Never let anyone else set your identity.  Find your own path on your journey of self-discovery.